Stringer model of grace, dignity

Rutgers University

C. Vivian Stringer is one of sports' most prolific coaches. She is also a mother whose successes have been met with personal tragedy. Her story inspires the award-winning short film "Coach," part of the Nine for IX series which begins July 2 on ESPN.

The world knows her as C. Vivian Stringer, the head coach of Rutgers women's basketball. But, to me, she is just Coach Stringer, my second mom, someone who has been a source of inspiration and a person I have admired since the day we met. Coach Stringer has been the ultimate example of strength, grace and amazing character.

I first met Coach Stringer at an AAU tournament. At the time, we were not able to communicate due to recruiting rules, but I could feel her energy the moment we made eye contact. I spoke with Tasha Pointer, who played for Coach Stringer at Rutgers and was the first player she recruited out of Chicago. Tasha told me how amazing it was to play for Coach Stringer. As I went through the recruiting process, during home visits and trips to campus, Coach and I shared great conversations. I knew right away she was the coach for me.

AP Photo/Tim Larsen

Cappie Pondexter, right, played with C. Vivian Stringer at Rutgers from 2002-06.

Coach Stringer is a special lady; she has meant so much to me, from when I was a teenager at Rutgers to now a professional player with the New York Liberty. I know there are few people who remain in contact with their college coaches, but I have continued to communicate with her every step of the way. She shows me love and support through it all, whether it's sending flowers, leaving a voice message or sending a text.

The love she showed me outside of basketball, even before I got there, has meant a great deal. She was my second mom and that means the world to me. There is nothing I wouldn't do for her.

The biggest lessons I have learned from Coach Stringer over the years have been to stand tall through adversity, and continue to strive and excel on and off the court. She has been through so many tough times in her life, some more widely known than others; but one thing that always holds true is how strong she has been during those difficult circumstances.

One thing that sticks out in my mind was during my college years. I had no idea she was going through chemotherapy. She would actually go to her treatments in the morning and then come straight to practice. We had no idea she was facing something as serious as cancer because she would come to practice with the same amount of energy. Coach Stringer gave us 100 percent no matter what she was facing, and that was the ultimate for me. It shows her character as a human being, how much she really cared about us and wanted us to become better players and people. That, and many other instances, served as personal examples for me and everyone else around her.

But, remarkably, Coach Stringer displayed that same grace and dignity while the whole world was watching. The Don Imus incident was a difficult time for the entire program; you had young kids not understanding what was going on and everyone around them saying different things. These were kids that she had to take care of while handling the negative comments and backlash -- all on a national stage. For her to continue to carry herself with so much grace and be that pillar of strength was amazing. Even the players reflected from her personality. You watched someone like Essence Carson, who stood up and gave that speech with such grace; it was a very proud moment for me.

The whole world got the chance to see what I knew for a very long time: Coach Stringer is a very special woman.

People generally see one dimension of Coach Stringer -- when she is tuned into basketball and in that mode of fierce competitor. But when you are around her, you quickly learn she is also the sweetest thing. That is the side a lot of people don't get to experience, and I'm glad I have.

What I will always remember about Coach Stringer is her attitude and mental strength. She is a person that never allows anything break her, no matter what she goes through. It is one of the things she instilled in me during my years in college, to mentally be strong.

I wouldn't be where I am today, in this league, surviving so many years, if it wasn't for her pushing me to be the best person or player I can be.

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